In October 2020, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) accepted the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The award came during a challenging period. COVID-19 is putting strain on world hunger, global health and peace processes. For instance, in Ethiopia, the politicization of national COVID-19 responses amplified tensions during elections. In Libya, the pandemic affected the process of conflict resolution and exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis. In India, the pandemic intensified pre-existing frictions between ethnic groups creating scapegoats and marginalizing migrants. The WFP’s 2020 Nobel Peace Prize brings new hope for world hunger and conflict resolutions during the global pandemic. According to Claude Jibidar, the WFP country director in Chad, the award given to the WFP is a wake-up call. Jibidar says, “Our success or our failure today will determine the future that we leave to our children tomorrow. We want them to live in peace and in a world with zero hunger.”
The UN World Food Programme
The World Food Programme is a leading humanitarian organization that has been fighting world hunger and poverty for more than 50 years. The organization works with communities and local authorities to deliver food assistance and improve nutrition. In 2019, the WFP provided meals to more than 17.3 million pupils, of which 50% were girls. The WFP’s actions are crucial on a global scale to meet the 2030 zero hunger goal set up by the international community in 2015 as part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The zero hunger goal aims to completely end world hunger, improve global nutrition and achieve food security and agricultural sustainability. Since the establishment of the goal, the WFP has made zero hunger its priority.
To achieve this goal, the WFP uses educational and nutritional programs. Not only does the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize laureate bring food to countries in need but it also develops programs to educate local populations and authorities. In 2016, the WFP partnered with the government of Cameroon for a prevention-oriented program to address the rising numbers of malnutrition cases in children and pregnant or lactating women. The prevention-based program was a success. By 2017, the number of children reached had doubled in comparison to a treatment program in 2015. Additionally, the cases of acute malnutrition drastically fell. The proportion of children having a mid-upper arm circumference of fewer than 125 millimeters went from 17% in May 2014 to 2% in November 2017.
The WFP’s largest operation started in 2015 in Yemen and is still in progress. In 2021, after more than five years of conflict, more than 20 million people are still food insecure and facing hunger in Yemen. To address the food emergency and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, the WFP continues to provide food assistance in Yemen. However, the ongoing conflict and growing tensions, amplified by hunger and food insecurity, make it challenging for the WFP to assist Yemeni people. In fact, one of the main issues the WFP faced was that rebels in the area were diverting food from people in need. The WFP engaged in negotiations with rebels in order to ensure food assistance would go where it is needed.
Hunger and Peace Interlinked
As said by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, “the link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle.” To fight world hunger and conflicts, the international community needs to address these two issues conjointly. Treating hunger and food insecurity can prevent the rise of tensions leading to violence. Furthermore, addressing violent conflicts can also improve local food security. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize acknowledges the WFP’s efforts of combining humanitarian aid endeavors with peacekeeping efforts.
However, to define food security as the main instrument of world peace, international cooperation remains essential. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize reminds the world that food insecurity and peace are interlinked while recognizing the substantial contributions of the World Food Programme in combating hunger and achieving peace.
– Soizic Lecocq